Fit for Champions, Built for Community

Richmond Olympic Oval Debuts Legacy Design

Every Olympic city has its icon. The first was Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens. Most recently, it was the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. For the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, it will likely be the $178-million, 8,000-seat Richmond Olympic Oval in Richmond, B.C. With its sea-to-sky views of the Fraser River delta and one-of-a-kind “wood wave” roof, the 43,000-sq.-m. venue is certainly remarkable from the outside. But what’s inside the arena makes for an even more impressive feat of design.

At the center of the column-free, multi-sport complex is a 400 metre speed skating track that will transform into two independent Olympic-sized skating rinks after the Games. The post-2010 Winter Games “legacy” configuration is the first of its kind worldwide. “The goal was to design a facility that would be viable in legacy mode,” said Larry Podhora, architect with Cannon Design. “In order to attract world-class athletes beyond the 2010 Winter Games and make the facility community-friendly for years to come, we designed a multi-functional space that could also succeed on a cultural, financial and operational level.”

In Richmond’s humid, temperate climate, getting Olympic-quality ice while minimizing energy usage was no simple task. Critical to achieving both was proper installation and insulation of a 12,000 square metre “super-flat” ice slab that wouldn’t settle, shift, heave or crack.

Ice on Top

In a notable departure from conventional ice slab design, the ice surfaces of the Richmond Olympic Oval are on the second floor, above a parking garage, retail stores and offices. The heated support spaces beneath the ice would warm the structural slab enough to prevent cold temperature penetration from above. This configuration reduced energy usage by eliminating the need for a separate under-floor heating system, which is the conventional solution for ice rink slabs on-grade. Accommodating parking within the first floor, rather than building a separate garage, also minimized cooling requirements by voiding solar gain on a free-standing structure and additional site disruption.

“The topography of the area allowed us to build the first floor garage against the Fraser River dyke, and we knew it would contribute to the overall energy efficiency of the building,” said Podhora. “We were able to considerably reduce the energy usage of the facility by taking the bold, innovative step of locating the Oval on the second level. By diverting heat generated by the refrigeration process from the sub-slab and into assisting the building boilers and heat generators, we estimate that at least 40 per cent of the building’s heat requirements are met by this refrigeration loop.”

Achieving a “super-flat” slab on the second level, however, first required a well-stabilized foundation on the site’s soft alluvial soil. To ensure that any settlement would not cause the ice slab to shift, supports of the suspended activity level were placed on a ‘raft-slab’ over pile-reinforced grade. After a program of surveys throughout construction verified the level stability, the laws of thermodynamics became the main threat to the ice slab’s performance. If not properly protected and insulated, the concrete sub-floor beneath the ice slab could condense the moisture content in the ambient air. This would cause water and frost damage that could not only drip into the occupied spaces below, but also compromise ice performance and the entire floor’s integrity.

To move the dew point from the structural slab to the ice side and achieve optimal ice performance, the ice slab assembly needed at least an R-25 thermal barrier. The insulation needed to maintain its R-value in the sometime damp environment, accommodate concrete slab thermal movement, and withstand the weight of the ice slab, spectators, ice re-surfacers and other heavy maintenance vehicles that would be used in the multi-sport facility.

To meet the ice slab assembly’s required thermal resistance, moisture resistance and compressive strength, ice consultants Sterling Engineering, contractors Bry Sand Ice Arena Ltd. and advisory refrigeration consultants Bradley Refrigeration Ltd. chose six inches of 60psi, R-5/inch STYROFOAM Brand Extruded Polystyrene (XPS) Foam Insulation from Dow Building Solutions.

Eric Bradley, owner of Bradley Refrigeration, named insulation as the critical factor in preventing ice slab failure. “Choosing a high performance, trusted product is key, as you can’t just go back if it doesn’t work,” Bradley says. His company recommends STYROFOAM Brand XPS Foam Insulation to protect its clients’ investments. Bryan Trusty, president of Bry Sand Ice Arena shares the sentiment. “We have seen failure of other products that led to failure of the total floor assembly,” he says. “With STYROFOAM that worry is eliminated.”

For Podhora, STYROFOAM Brand Insulation was also an obvious choice not only for its role in protecting the ice slab and reducing energy usage, but also because it can be reused. “Choosing building materials that were made and used in earth-friendly ways was as integral to the design as smart use of the build site, natural light and mechanicals.”

Good Design is Green Design

Completed in December 2008, the Richmond Olympic Oval is targeting LEED Silver certification and was awarded the Sustainability Star by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC). Construction of the Richmond Olympic Oval was carried out in a truly eco-conscious fashion, with 75 per cent of the construction waste recycled and nearly 95 per cent averted from landfills. A lasting legacy for the Richmond community, the Oval is sustainable from its foundation to its cool-roof membrane.

About Dow Canada

Dow Chemical Canada ULC, a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company, employs approximately 1,000 people in Canada. Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Dow Canada and its affiliates have manufacturing locations in: Sarnia and Toronto, Ontario; Fort Saskatchewan and Prentiss, Alberta; and Varennes, Quebec. For more information about Dow Canada, please visit our web site at 

More information about Dow Canada’s role in the 2010 Winter Games is available at  For further information, please contact Jan McKinnon, Senior Communications Manager, Dow Building Solutions, at (519) 541-0336, [email protected]; or Marissa Peterson of Gibbs & Soell Public Relations, at (212) 697-2600, [email protected]

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